When it comes to comic-books, I’ve always been more of a Marvel guy.
I’ve tried in the past to get into the likes of Batman by buying classic stories written by the heavyweights of the comic-book world. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t get into them. (Much like Daredevil – love the character, but I don’t like the stories.)
I decided to buy a hoard of graphic novels and with DC introducing the 52 series, I thought I would give it another shot.
For anyone who doesn’t know, DC’s line of 52 comic-books are geared towards new readers. They have erased the history of their characters and started fresh which is ideal for those wanting to get into DC Comics. Marvel did something similar with their line of Ultimate comic-books, but didn’t extend as far as to say the other stories never existed.
Justice League Volume 1: Origin is about how the famous group of superheros came together to save the world.
Justice League Volume 1: Origin Storyline:
The storyline itself isn’t too bad and follows the traditional structure of order, disorder and restoration of order. My main complaints are in regards to the dynamics of the group and how the group was formed.
Overall, the story feels rushed and would have benefited from introducing the seven characters over a concession of volumes. By reducing their introduction to one book, some characters fade into the background and their individual merits and qualities are skipped over.
While I have no doubt that this will be explored in future editions, Volume 1 serves as the basis of establishing Justice League, it’s members and why they become a team.
The character Cyborg is introduced at the beginning of the book. Unlike the other members of Justice League, Cyborg has his entire origin story thrust into a book attempting to establish the origins of Justice League. This is not necessary, as opposed to telling his story the dynamics between the other six members could have been explored a lot more throughly. Not only that, but the character doesn’t bring anything to the team that doesn’t already exist and I couldn’t help but feel that his shining moment could have been handed to Batman.
Batman is completely lost in this book. The members of the team joke about him not having any superpowers and instead of being given his chance to show why they need him(intelligence, stealth and technology) he simply exists.
I started to get excited during the third act. Batman allows himself to be captured by the aliens in order to stage a rescue of Superman. Despite this being the perfect opportunity for Batman to skulk around in the shadows, and to learn not only why the aliens have come to Earth, but a way to defeat them, he simply picks up Superman who has already been freed…
With the introduction of Cyborg, the writers establish that one of his main powers is the ability to tap into technology. Through a voice in his head, he learns the history of the aliens and unknowingly manages to send them off-world. As a reader, I felt cheated as not only is Batman’s primary qualities rendered useless, there was no sense of danger or consequence. The event simply happened.
The major problem with this book is that events just happen with no regard to consequences or characterisation. Without delving too deeply into the storyline, every character just pops up. They are never in peril and when certain events happen, the writers completely ignore the effects that they may have had on individuals or the group as a whole.
In Justice League 52 Volume 1, Greenlantern is an individual opposed to a team player, who’s arrogance and lack of concentration is his main weakness.This element within the team would have worked wonderfully if fully explored. In order to show that the character had been changed by the events, he should have been placed in peril because of his lack of concentration and the group should have been placed in immediate danger because of his failure to work as part of a team.
Through evolving as a character, he corrects his mistakes and understands the importance of teamwork… completely ignored by the writers. Instead they opt for Batman standing around telling him to concentrate.
Superman was another disappointment. The best analogy that I can think of is that his involvement within this book is much like a firework that fails to go off. Full of so much promise and does nothing.
Are there positives?
Hell yea, it’s a fun, light read that at times shines with brilliance. This brilliance is sadly another criticism.
In the final issue, a character we have never met begins to give a narration to the storyline. It provides a much-needed depth to the events happening in the book and at points gave me goosebumps.
Other than to act as a device to name the group, it is a complete mystery why this character exists or why he is only used in the final issue. I can’t help but feel that should this narration have been utilised throughout the book, it would have provided some much-needed depth.
This form of storytelling would have been very interesting to the reader as it would be a second-hand account of the story. Much like in 300, you could be given the impression that the story we are watching is a form of propaganda or an exaggerated story telling of how 7 Superheroes stood against the might of the alien horde.
If that form of storytelling was introduced into this book, you would be more forgiving about the plot holes and could view ridiculous scenarios as exaggerated stories. Perhaps further down the line, reality sinks in and we truly discover the effects on our heroes.
Golden opportunity missed as is the conclusion of the story…
Instead of our heroes coming to the realisation that some foes can only be vanquished through teamwork… they all come to the conclusion that they don’t need to be a part of a team.
If the conclusion of the story is that teamwork is not important, then the book is rendered useless. As a reader, the book serves no purpose other than to say that all seven of the group stumbled into one another.
Some of this could have been forgiven when right at the very end of the book the writers position themselves into perfect situation to suggest why they stay together. This would entice the reader with the prospect that the second volume would address their concerns… Nope…
The team prattles on about they will never need to work together again, when an aid whispers into the President’s ear.
Over the course of two panels the following is said:
I’m sorry but we’ve got trouble. Your kind of trouble I’d guess. We need your team again.
You can call us… The Super Seven
How fucking lame… The book is fully of scenarios like the one above and is frustrating when you can see so many missed opportunities to make this a truly great graphic novel.
This was a golden opportunity for the team to start to go their separate ways when the President urges them for help as the World faces a foe even more menacing than the one they just vanquished. Humanity’s fate rests in their hands and by only working as a team can they ever hope to succeed.
The heroes then reluctantly agree to stay together for one last time… (or so they think).
Justice League Volume 1: Origin Artwork:
The artwork is stunning, but I would like to pay particular attention to the coloring as it adds a sense of atmosphere which is often lacking from comic-books.
Before writing this I had a quick flick through the book and came to a page with Cyborg playing American Football. The contents aren’t very exciting, however the atmosphere jumps off the page. It feels like a clammy summers night with crickets chirping in the distance and on the fringe of a violent thunderstorm.
My only complaint is in regards to some of the action. There are a few panels that as a reader, I couldn’t tell what was going on. They reminded me of a Michael Bay film with the chaotic action being told through the use of close-ups. This mixed with text across the panel makes it virtually impossible to follow what is happening.
Justice League 52 Volume 1 isn’t a bad read. It’s the kind of book that fumbles through events to a predictable conclusion. It feels like a book that is completely reliant on being cool because superheroes are thrown together.
Before attempting this book, I would suggest that new readers delve into the 52 comic-books which establish the characters of Justice League. If you jump straight into this volume, you will in no way be lost however, you may be more forgiving about the missed opportunities and get a kick out of seeing the characters coming together.
You can buy Justice League Volume 1: Origin here: